Coaches and general managers have flocked to town for nearly 40 years to interview players and watch them practice drills at the NFL’s annual scouting combine.
Now the teams are sending scouts, coaches, and executives across the country for 103 college pro days to replace this year’s one combine in yet another NFL adaptation on the coronavirus pandemic.
The NFL has rules for this scouting version of speed dating that began in Kansas on March 5th and ends on April 9th. COVID-19 means that no more than three people per team are allowed on a per day. Hence, film reviews are vital to this April’s draft.
“This will be the Super Bowl for good scouting and player staff,” said Agent Leigh Steinberg. “It will be your time to shine. It will be their Super Bowl, with the better organizations being more creative and getting better talent ratings and some people not being very successful. But that happens every year, doesn’t it? ”
Teams are also not allowed to hold private movie sessions, workouts, or dinners with prospects, although face-to-face visits are permitted – provided a school has added time to its schedule. Any private training or timing and testing not related to the NFL is prohibited.
“It puts more of a duty on our trainers to make various phone calls where we just have to make sure, ‘Hey, what do you know about that? What do you know about it “Just make sure what you see on tape is real,” said Chicago coach Matt Nagy.
The pro days began in earnest on Tuesday with breaks only on the weekend, with five to nine per day. This will keep GMs, coaches, scouts, and other team personnel very busy, even if videos from every pro day are shared with every team.
Brian Gutekunst, General Manager of Green Bay, plans to do more pro days than in previous years, relying on experienced scouting staff.
“We are fortunate to have some people who have been on this for more than 15 to 20 years. I feel really good when I can’t manage to see some of them that we will have our eyes on. These people will be able to give us the information we need to make good decisions, “Gutekunst explained.
Chicago GM Ryan Pace went over the schedules with the bears’ coaches before taking to the streets with the Boy Scouts.
“We just have to be resourceful in this process along with every other team,” said Pace.
No combine means NFL teams don’t have a baseline of height, weight, and speed for every player. A consistent dash time of 40 yards could be the most challenging. In Indianapolis, the timing and distance for the 40-yard dashboard is standard for anyone drilling indoors with no wind.
Brett Veach, general manager of Kansas City, said this means checking the files to see which school has a fast lane or a 40-yard line that doesn’t go the distance.
“There are schools that usually produce 40 times faster,” said Veach. “I don’t want to name names, but we all know that there is a list of schools that we always say, ‘Are they 38 meters there or 39 meters there? ‘because player X has to go to the combine and do a 4.5 (-second 40) and then go to his school and do 4.4, 4.38. “
Greg Newsome II had teammates watching Tuesday when the Cornerback ran an unofficial 4.31-second 40-yard dash at Northwestern’s indoor practice facility. Newsome also noted that all of the NFL coaches were watching on the field. In the combine harvester, these trainers and GMs watch the 40 from their seats at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Even though I didn’t run in Indy, I thought it was the Indy feeling,” Newsome said.
Of course, COVID-19 also remains a factor. NFL staff must wear masks and keep their distance. You must also have negative tests so Boy Scouts and staff can be equipped with portable test kits for longer road trips. Local COVID-19 guidelines must be followed.
“Every state is different, so it is difficult to have a single set of rules,” said Jon Robinson, general manager of Titans.
One function cannot be replaced: team medical examinations.
When teams host up to 30 players, the team doctors run their own tests to check for a curative ACL or to see if a shoulder may need further surgery. Veach said it was extremely challenging, but the NFL was working on a plan to conduct medical exams 323 players who would have been invited to this year’s combine harvester.
“It probably won’t be as detailed or accurate as it has been in the past,” said Veach. “That’s always a problem. That was a problem last year when we couldn’t bring the guys in or out for top 30 visits and train those players. “
The teams are allowed to interview a player via video, which began up to five times on January 25 and was limited to a maximum of 60 minutes each time. Old school calls are allowed unlimited until April 28, the day before the NFL draft begins.
Instead of interviewing a player in person, the teams are creative to get as much out of each session as possible. Robinson lets other members of the Titan organization take part in video visits, although Wi-Fi isn’t the best way to build a relationship.
“They can read the body language, they can look at those perspectives and listen to them, so we get different opinions on how they fare on the questions we ask,” said Robinson of the extra eyes.
Joe Douglas, general manager of Jets, noted that the league was successful last year with a combine and no pro days.
“We don’t have a combine this year, but we have pro days,” said Douglas. “So we’ll make the best of it. And I know our guys are excited to get out and attack in these pro days. “
AP Pro football writers Barry Wilner, Rob Maaddi, Dennis Waszak Jr. and Dave Campbell, as well as sports journalists Bernie Wilson, Steve Megargee, Andrew Seligman and Tom Canavan contributed.
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